02/14/2012 02:23 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2012

Artists Envision Immigration Justice

Sometimes the medium is the message. Among the recent protest actions that have flared up across the country in defense of immigrants' rights, some of the most inspiring statements have come from artists with a vision for justice. In an age of viral media, this is not your mom's agitprop.

CultureStrike coordinator Favianna Rodriguez depicts the crisis of capitalism:

Julio Salgado at DREAMers Adrift has depicted the student activism that has risen up to challenge the crackdown on Mexican American Studies in Tucson.

Julio also took his pen to the frontlines of the brewing showdown in Washington over the ARMS Act, a particularly twisted incarnation of the DREAM Act. The bill would push undocumented youth into military service as a conditioning of gaining legal status (in other words, stripping away the educational provisions at the core of the DREAM Act and warning immigrant youth that their main value to the country derives not from investment in their minds, but from the exploitation of their bodies, either as cheap labor, or as weapons of war).

And the demands of the DREAMers are about more than just a college diploma...

Pioneering Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz frames the ethnic studies crackdown in a legacy of persecution--a history lesson that's either tragically lost on the state's politicians or perversely nostalgic for them.

Alcaraz has also been quietly making his way into the headlines with a dormant meme that the Republicans have resurrected for the election season.

Here's a blast from the past from the New York Times' Opnionator:

As the radio program "This American Life" reminded its audience on Tuesday, there is an argument to be made that the term self-deportation was invented in 1994 by two Mexican-American satirists, Lalo Alcaraz and Esteban Zul. That year, "sickened" by a ballot initiative known as Proposition 187, which aimed to prohibit illegal immigrants from using state-run hospitals and schools in California, the comedians began posing as conservative activists who backed the measure.

The two men started a satirical media campaign to support the initiative, faxing radio and television stations a fake news release that touted the benefits of "self-deportation centers" and invited reporters seeking more information to call a Latino Republican and "militant self-deportationist" named Daniel D. Portado. Eventually the men founded "Hispanics Against Liberal Takeover," or Halto, and produced a mock radio ad, in which Portado claimed to support "California Gov. Pete Wilson's self-deportation message."

And 18 years on, it's clear that not much has changed in politics, though this campaign season the GOP hopefuls seem to especially pride themselves on a stunning lack of irony. Just ask Mexican Mitt.

Politics and art always mix. The results can be comical, but often, with a little creative energy, the right image lets us imagine that other worlds are possible.

To view and download art for social justice, visit:


Cross-posted from CultureStrike